After that Sunday night dumpster fire of a match against the Portland Timbers, it will not get any easier for the Vancouver Whitecaps (8-8-3) as they travel to what’s likely to be their least favorite MLS destination, and square off against an in-form FC Dallas (9-3-7).
Where: Toyota Stadium, Frisco, TX
When: Saturday, July 29th at 5 pm PST
How: TSN2 (TV); TSN 1410 (Radio); MLS Live (Internet)
In spite of the uninspired 2-1 loss to Portland last Sunday, the Whitecaps are still 2-2-1 over their last five matches, remain in sixth place in the Western Conference, enough to earn the team a spot in the playoffs, and at the very least hold a two-game advantage over teams both ahead and behind them in the standings.
FC Dallas is a team who is level with the Whitecaps in games played (19) and yet are 7 points ahead of the Whitecaps and are 1st in the Western Conference. It’s clear the team has been in form for the majority of the 2017 season, though their recent performances suggest an even greater trend upwards, with the Hoops having gone 3-0-2 in their last five matches.
Though one of those recent draws was away to our beloved Whitecaps, where Cristian Techera was able to negate Maxi Urutti’s opener with a beautiful free kick goal, tomorrow’s match instead will suffer from the dreaded mid-summer heat of Texas that I’m sure few MLSers truly enjoy. I mean, aside from those who are used to it (read: immense FC Dallas home-field advantage).
With the Gold Cup now completed, all players away for International duty should be readily available, save for any who may have played in Wednesday’s final, which includes Kellyn Acosta, who saw 55 minutes of action in the victory for the U.S. Men’s National Team. The remaining Hoops on the US MNT, Matt Hedges and Jesse Gonzalez, did not feature and should be available.
Dallas’ fourth International call-up, Maynor Figueroa, saw his Honduras side bow out in the quarter-finals of the cup; normally, he’d be ready to go, but will be suspended for Saturday’s match due to yellow card accumulation, as will Argentinian defender, Hernan Grana.
Presently, FC Dallas has no players listed on the MLS Injury Report, while it lists for Vancouver the same two names as last week: David Edgar and Brett Levis.
The Whitecaps have no suspended players for this weekend’s match, and there should no longer be a question of International availability, seeing as how Marcel de Jong, Russell Teibert, and Alphonso Davies all made the bench against Portland, with Davies seeing the last 26 minutes of the match. Kendall Waston, who’s Costa Rican side also bowed out in the cup’s quarter-finals, should be raring to go.
Who’s Worth Watching?
I’m going all-in on Alphonso Davies. Though he did play nearly a third of the match against Portland, he’s now had a full week of training with the club following his first call up to the Canadian Men’s National Team, and I’ll be damned if he didn’t make his presence known in the Gold Cup. He won the competition’s Golden Boot Award, scoring 3 goals in 258 minutes on the pitch, as well as the Young Player Award, and being named to the competition’s Best XI. He may not get the start on Saturday, but he’ll undoubtedly be driven to maintain his successes now that he’s returned full time to the club.
As for Dallas, it would be easy to select one of their offensive threats, of which the team has many, but I’m going with standout defender Matt Hedges. The Hoops’ captain is routinely one of their best players on the pitch, is the reigning MLS Defender of the Year, currently leads the second-stingiest defense in the league with 19 goals conceded, and more than earned a call-up to the U.S Men’s National Team this summer. How he only just now earned his 1st MLS All-Star selection I’ll never know.
Who’s Going to Win?
Aside from being an extremely deep, quality side, there’s another reason why they are currently first in the Western Conference, with a two-game advantage on nearly every club chasing them in the standings: Dallas is one of the most difficult away venues in the MLS, and Saturday’s match is going to be a hot one. In fact, the club is 6-1-3 at home this season, and Vancouver has an all-time record of 0-0-7, with 2 goals for, when playing in Dallas.
But things don’t need to be that bleak. That one home loss Dallas has suffered this season? It was against San Jose of all teams, in a match where the away Earthquakes’ defense held firm against a strong Dallas attack, before netting the winner nine minutes from stoppage. The takeaway for ‘Caps fans? Make sure the defense is solid and wait for the right time to strike. See, there’s always hope!
Nevertheless, the Whitecaps’ counterattack, which appears to be their main source of offense, has been erratically effective this season. I truly believe this defensive lineup can hold its own against any team in the MLS, but I have to go with history and the heat on this one, and begrudgingly believe that FC Dallas takes this one, 1-0.
Vancouver Whitecaps - Ousted; Nerwinski, Waston, Parker, Harvey; Laba; Davies, Tchani, Jacobson, Bolanos; Montero.
FC Dallas - Gonzalez; Harris, Zimmerman, Hedges, Hollingshead; Gruezo, Ulloa, Barrios, Diaz, Lamah; Urruti.
Referee: Baldomero Toledo; AR1: Kermit Quisenberry; AR2: Jonathan Johnson; 4th: Alex Chilowicz.